Courage and Faith: The Voice of the Amazon

Next week Amazon activist Leah Casimero will be joining Joel Thompson SJ, in a Zoom webinar hosted by Jesuit Missions at 7.30pm Tuesday 22 September.

Leah Casimero’s journey is indicative of the complexities and challenges that face us all at this unique juncture in human history. How do we respond to the devastation that is being visited on the earth by climate change? How do we give the earth and its people a voice?

Leah, an indigenous woman of the Wapichan tribe, lives in a remote part of Guyana, a five-hour journey by motorbike, or in the back of a pickup truck, to the nearest town of any size. Her community, like so many others in the Amazon region, faces numerous environmental, social and political challenges including contamination of rivers and the destruction of the land due to large-scale agriculture, mining and logging. This destruction poses a huge threat to the indigenous people themselves and to the flora and fauna in the name of development and to facilitate large companies.

Leah is pushing for more engagement with local people on these major decisions and for more information and meaningful dialogue with the community in order to ensure steps are only taken with the free and informed consent of the people themselves: “I would like to see an empowered people of the Amazon contributing to their own development and contributing to the church and the world.” Leah also wants to see more support from politicians and organisations who can make a difference – rather than their continued indifference.

Leah works as part of the Quality Bilingual Education Programme for Wapichan Children and sees work with children as a way of helping to promote change: “As part of the QBEP team, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, I help to promote formal education that respects the Wapichan child. It is the first of its kind in my country. We have adapted the current curriculum to suit our children and have included traditional knowledge, mother tongue, and culture. Shaping our future leaders through holistic education.

The culture of the Wapichan tribe has much to teach all of us in the way that it looks at the natural environment: “I think the way we perceive our relationship with fellow human beings and the rest of creation, is responsible for the way we act towards them. We Wapichan, indigenous people, do not consider ourselves the guardians of the plants, animals etc. Rather we are on the same level as the animals and plants; therefore, all living things are treated with respect. I believe this is the reason why we live in harmony with our environment and one another.”

Leah attended last year’s Synod on the Amazon in Rome - where she was lucky enough to meet Pope Francis: “The synod challenged us all. The experience was profound and made me more aware how important it is to have a first-hand experience of other Amazonian people, and the leadership of the church.  Courage and faith are not optional, because we are up against a huge challenge. Everyone needs to use every platform available to respond this crisis we are facing.”

Leah’s message brings hope and points to the role that each of us has to be a voice for the earth.

Sign up here for next week’s free webinar: